Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est- The Poem

 












The 1910s were simultaneously a period that encompassed the Belle Epoque ("Beautiful Era") of painters like Tissot and Waterhouse and composers like Stauss, Debussy and Ravel; as well as the period of WWI with its mustard gas, trenches, and tanks. For this reason the phrase "Dulce et Decorum Est" seems particularly appropo to describe the timeperiod; for besides meaning "sweet and good/fitting it is", it is also the name of a poem written in 1918 by Wilfred Owen who served and died during "The Great War".

DULCE ET DECORUM EST by WILFRED OWEN

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.



Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!---An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.



In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.



If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

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